20 January 2012

Copyright's conceits

SOPA and PIPA may have caught the headlines recently but there has been a lively debate on copyright for several years now and there have been other subtle changes, such as the harmonisation (i.e. lengthening) of some copyright periods.

I am firmly against copyright restrictions for several reasons, for example I am swayed by the argument that openness leads to greater wealth/value creation, but my main argument is the sheer conceit of the whole concept of copyright.

It's all my own work

Giving copyright to a work to a single individual makes the preposterous claim that all the intellectual effort that went in to producing it is theirs and theirs alone. This ignores the necessary contributions from teachers who built the skills, peers and friends who guided the work, and other vast army of artists who created the cultural environment in which the new work sits.

In music this is often recognised with Band A being honest and saying that they were influenced by Bands B and C. But Band A gets all the money.

Only I could have done it

This assertion claims that the work is so unique that only the author could have created and, by implication, anybody who produces any similar work must have copied the "original".

The obvious counter argument to this is the story of the young boy and an owl who learns he is a wizard and goes off to school to learn about magic. That, of course, is the story of Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic.

Not only is it true that somebody else could have produce the work it is also very likely that somebody else could have done something similar but better.

Copyright is a lie

These two lies make copyright a falsehood and it should be abolished.

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